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News articles on Australia
Mongabay.com news articles on Australia in blog format. Updated regularly.
(03/27/2012) A $100 million peat conservation project launched in the heart of Indonesian Borneo by the Australian government has been dramatically scaled back and is largely failing to meet expectations, hampering efforts to develop an effective Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) program in Indonesia, concludes a new analysis published by researchers at Australian National University.
Humans killed off magnificent Australian megafauna, flipping rainforest into savannah
(03/27/2012) The theory that humans, and not climate change, was primarily responsible for the extinction of giant marsupials in prehistoric Australia takes another step forward with a new study in Science. Exploring sediment cores for past evidence of big herbivores, researchers found that the arrival of humans coincided with the loss of a menagerie of magnificent beasts, from giant kangaroos to fearsome marsupial lions and monster birds to Komodo dragon-like reptiles. The decline of this megafauna ultimately led to ecological changes that may have caused Australia's rainforest to become savannah.
Featured video: scientists capture first footage of Shepherd's beaked whale
(02/27/2012) Scientists have captured what is believed to be the world's first footage of the cryptic Shepherd's beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi), one of a number of beaked whale species about which scientists know almost nothing.
Scientists discover deadly new sea snake
(02/24/2012) Scientists in Australia have discovered a species of sea snake in estuaries of the Gulf of Carpenteria in northern Australia. The snake is described in the current issue of Zootaxa.
Forgotten species: the wild jungle cattle called banteng
(01/31/2012) The word "cattle," for most of us, is the antithesis of exotic; it's familiar like a family member one's happy enough to ignore, but doesn't really mind having around. Think for a moment of the names: cattle, cow, bovine...likely they make many of us think more of the animals' byproducts than the creatures themselves—i.e. milk, butter, ice cream or steak—as if they were an automated food factory and not living beings. But if we expand our minds a bit further, "cattle" may bring up thoughts of cowboys, Texas, herds pounding the dust, or merely grazing dully in the pasture. But none of these titles, no matter how far we pursue them, conjure up images of steamy tropical rainforest or gravely imperiled species. A cow may be beautiful in its own domesticated sort-of-way, but there is nothing wild in it, nothing enchanting. However like most generalizations, this idea of cattle falls to pieces when one encounters, whether in literature or life, the banteng.
Beyoncé honored with new horse fly named after her
(01/16/2012) Musical artists, and dancer extraordinare, Beyoncé has been awarded a new honor this week: entomologists in Australia have named a new horse fly after the American singer. The new horse fly, dubbed Scaptia beyonceae, is found in Queensland's Atherton Tablelands.
Climate change may make lizards smarter, if they don't go extinct first
(01/12/2012) A new study in Biology Letters has found that warmer temperatures may make lizards smarter, even as past studies have linked a global decline in lizards to climate change.
Sober up: world running out of time to keep planet from over-heating
(10/24/2011) If governments are to keep the pledge they made in Copenhagen to limit global warming within the 'safe range' of two degrees Celsius, they are running out of time, according to two sobering papers from Nature. One of the studies finds that if the world is to have a 66 percent chance of staying below a rise of two degrees Celsius, greenhouse gas emissions would need to peak in less than a decade and fall quickly thereafter. The other study predicts that pats of Europe, Asia, North Africa and Canada could see a rise beyond two degrees Celsius within just twenty years.
New study: price carbon at the point of fossil fuel extraction
(10/17/2011) Global carbon emissions are a complicated matter. Currently, officials estimate national fossil fuel-related emissions by what is burned (known as production) within a nation, but this approach underestimates the emissions contributions from countries that extract oil and oil for export. Is there a better way to account for a country's total climate change footprint?
Australia's carbon tax moves closer to reality
(10/12/2011) By a margin of just two votes (74-72), Australia's plan to put a price on carbon passed its toughest hurdle today. It is now expected that the Australian legislator will moved forward to put the carbon tax into law. The carbon tax, pushed aggressively by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, was just as ferociously opposed by business leaders and opposition party leader, Tony Abbott.
Activists protest Australian forest destruction from top of the Sydney Opera House
(10/09/2011) A series of actions protesting forest destruction in Australia led to seven arrests last week. Led by a new NGO, The Last Stand, the activists targeted Australian retail giant Harvey Norman for allegedly being complicit in the destruction of native forests in Australia, which harbor many imperiled species found no-where else.
Activists worldwide push for leaving the fossil fuel age behind
(09/25/2011) On six continents, in over 75 percent of the world's countries, people came out en masse yesterday to attend over 2,000 events to demonstrate the power of renewable energy to combat global climate change. As apart of the 'Moving Planet' campaign organized by 350.org, activists created a giant human-windmill in Paris, gave out bike lessons in Buenos Aires, practiced evacuation measure in the Pacific island of Tuvalu imperiled by rising sea levels, and marched in Cape Town for a strong agreement at the next UN climate meeting hosted in Durban, South Africa.
New species of bottlenose discovered in Australia (PHOTO)
(09/15/2011) Researchers have discovered a new species of dolphin in Australia, reports ABC News.
Australia passes national carbon trading scheme for agriculture, forestry
(08/22/2011) Australia's parliament passed the world's first national carbon trading scheme for credits generated from farming and forestry, reports Reuters.
APP affiliate 'regrets' astroturfing on Indonesia deforestation claims
(08/21/2011) Solaris, an Australian affiliate of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), has been caught astroturfing an article that repeated criticism of APP from Greenpeace. The article, which appeared on Mumbrella—an Australian media and marketing news site—garnered a multitude of negative comments which were later tracked to IP addresses used by Solaris. Astroturfing is corporate or government messaging falsified as coming from the public or a grassroots movement.
Australian 'green' buildings used illegally logged wood from rainforests allege activists
(07/27/2011) A 'green' building development being built by Frasers Property Australia in Sydney has been accused of using illegally-sourced plywood from Malaysian state of Sarawak in Borneo, according to a new Greenpeace report. The wood in question comes from a subsidiary of Samling, a company that has been connected to illegal logging and abusing the rights of indigenous groups in the past. After the revelations came to light, Frasers Property Australia said they would conduct an audit of the wood which was provided to them by Australian Wood Panels (AWP).
Environmental protection agency chief: Brazil will do the same to indigenous as 'Australians did to the Aborigines'
(07/17/2011) Curt Trennepohl, president of Brazil's environmental protection agency (IBAMA), caused an uproar last week when he told an Australian TV crew that his agency's role "is not caring for the environment, but to minimize the impact". Later when Trennepohl believed the cameras were off he went on to say Brazilian indigenous tribes would suffer the same fate as Australia's Aborigines, reports Folha de S.Paulo.
Forgotten species: the rebellious spotted handfish
(07/12/2011) Evolution is a bizarre mistress. In her adaptation workshop she has crafted parrots that don't fly, amphibians with lifelong gills, poison-injecting rodents, and tusked whales. In an evolutionary hodge-podge that is reminiscent of such mythical beasts as chimeras and griffins, she has from time-to-time given some species' attributes of others, such as the marine iguana who is as happy underwater as a seal, the duck-billed platypus that lays eggs like a reptile, and the purple frog that has a lifestyle reminiscent of a mole. Then there's one of her least-known hodge-podges: the fish who 'walks' with hands instead of swimming.
Australia launches limited carbon tax
(07/11/2011) Australia's 500 largest polluters will pay AU$23 ($24.60) per ton of carbon dioxide emitted beginning July 2012 under a plan announced by Australian prime minister Julia Gilliard.
Australia's Senate passes palm oil labeling bill
(06/27/2011) Just days after being rejected by the the Senate Community Affairs Committee, Australia's Senate passed the Amended Truth in Labeling - Palm Oil Bill.
Palm oil labeling bill fails to pass in Australia
(06/19/2011) A controversial bill that would have required manufacturers to explicitly label palm oil as an ingredient on food products will not be passed into law.
Climate scientists in Australia suffer death threats
(06/07/2011) It's not easy to be a climate scientist. First, the media often misconstrues what you say; then some politicians accuse you of lying, manipulating research, and being complicit in a vast conspiracy; and, finally, if you're in Australia, you're threatened with death. According to The Canberra Times over 30 climate scientists and economists have been forced to take security measures after being threatened with violence, sexual assault, and death. In some cases, the families of researchers were also included in threats.
World's 'most social' lizard builds multigenerational homes
(05/31/2011) Researchers from Macquarie University in Australia have discovered that the threatened great desert burrowing skink lizard forms stable families that construct and maintain elaborate underground homes, reports ABC News. This is the first lizard in the world known to practice such familial behavior. Native to central Australia, researchers are conducting studies on the great desert skink (Liopholis kintorei) at Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, where rangers monitor the threatened species. Over 5,000 species of lizard have been documented globally, but only the Uluru skinks live together in immediate and social families that invest in the construction of long-lasting homes.
Debate over rainforest conservation gets heated
(05/18/2011) A debate over the need to conserve forests versus converting them for industrial use grew heated last week at Australian National University (ANU). A forum brought together policy experts, scientists, and a forestry lobbyist to discuss Australia's role in overseas forestry. But an exchange between William F. Laurance, an ecologist at James Cook University, and Alan Oxley, a former former Australian trade ambassador who lobbies on behalf of forestry interests, became the focus of the event.
Australia forest destruction connected to local products
(05/15/2011) Some of Australia's most popular stores are driving the destruction of native forests, according to a report by a new environmental group Markets for Change (MFC). Furniture, building materials, and paper products were found to be coming at the expense of native forests in Australia and being sold by over 30 businesses in the country, such as Freedom Furniture, Bunnings, Officeworks, Staples, Target, Coles, and Woolsworths.
Australia's floods threaten Great Barrier Reef
(01/18/2011) The floods ransacking the Queensland coast have cost 20 lives and $500 million worth of property damage. Now, huge volumes of water are pouring into the ocean, threatening the Great Barrier Reef, which extends for thousands of kilometers off the coast. Although it may take years to know the full consequences of the flooding, Australian scientists are already warning of serious damage. For now, the biggest problems are concentrated on the southern part of the reef, where three overflowing rivers—the Burdekin, the Fitzroy, and the Burnett—have released millions of gallons of heavily polluted water into the sea. So far, prevailing winds have confined the majority of the floodwaters to within 65 kilometers of shore. But in time, the damage may grow to affect the entire reef system.
Australia cracks down on illegal timber
(12/16/2010) The Australian government has announced the creation of new legislation which will put further restrictions on the import of foreign wood products in effort to halt the flow of illegally logged timber. Taking effect next year, the laws will require importers to disclose the sources of all timber products, even paper.
Genetic analysis uncovers new parrot on the edge of extinction
(11/23/2010) Down to just over 100 individuals, DNA analysis has revealed one of the world's most imperiled bird species: the western ground parrot Pezoporus flaviventris.. Genetic evidence collected from museums specimens, some well-over a century old, have led scientists to "cautiously suggest" that Australia's ground parrot be split into two distinct species—the eastern and the western—and not subspecies as they are currently considered. According to the study, the ground parrot species split apart some two million years ago, around the same time as the first members of the genus Homo evolved.
Back from extinction: Tasmanian tiger caught on video?
(11/16/2010) A 9 second video released today on YouTube claims to show a living Tasmanian tiger. The footage was captured by Murray McAllister last year. McAllister says he has seen the believed-to-be-extinct Tasmanian tiger several times in the last few years.
What do wolves and sharks have in common?
(11/15/2010) Sharks dwell in the ocean, wolves on land; sharks are a type of fish, wolves are a mammal; sharks go back some 400 million years, wolves only some 2 million years. So, these animals should have little in common, right? However, a new study in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment points to surprising similarities among these disparate animals. As top predators, both wolves and sharks impact their prey and other species in similar ways.
Loss of old growth forest continues
(10/06/2010) A new global assessment of forest stocks by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows continuing loss of primary forests since 2005 despite gains in the extent of protected areas. FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 reveals some 13 million hectares of forest were cleared between 2000 and 2010, down from around 16 million hectares per year during the 1990s. Loss of primary forest—mostly a consequence of logging—averaged 4.2 million hectares per year, down from 4.7 million hectares per year in the 1990s.
Australia may require labeling of products containing palm oil
(10/01/2010) An Australian senator introduced a legislation that would require manufacturers to specify whether palm oil has been used in their food products, reports the Australian Associated Press. Presently food labeling laws in Australia allow companies to list palm oil as a generic "vegetable oil" on packaging even though it comes from a palm tree.
Environmentalists win decades-long war with logger in Tasmania
(09/10/2010) Gunns Limited, an Australian logging company, that has been engaged in a long-running battle with environmentalists over the firm's cutting of old-growth forests on Tasmania, conceded defeat Thursday, reports the Environment News Service.
Nation's wealth does not guarantee green practices
(08/11/2010) Developing countries are not the only ones that could benefit from a little environmental support. Wealthier countries may need to 'know themselves' and address these issues at home too. According to a recent study in the open access journal PLoS ONE, wealth may be the most important factor determining a country’s environmental impact. The team had originally planned to study "country-level environmental performance and human health issues," lead author Corey Bradshaw, Director of Ecological Modeling and professor at the University of Adelaide, told mongabay.com. Once they began looking at the available indexes, however, they saw the need for a purely environmental analysis.
Photos: world's top ten 'lost frogs'
(08/09/2010) The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International (CI) have sent teams of researchers to 14 countries on five continents to search for the world's lost frogs. These are amphibian species that have not been seen for years—in some cases even up to a century—but may still survive in the wild. Amphibians worldwide are currently undergoing an extinction crisis. While amphibians struggle to survive against habitat loss, climate change, pollution, and overexploitation, they are also being wiped out by a fungal disease known as chytridiomycosis.
Reforestation of rainforests sequesters more carbon than plantations
(08/03/2010) A new study in Ecological Management & Restoration has found that reforesting rainforest captures more carbon than monoculture plantation and even mixed species plantations. The research tested three projects in north-eastern Australia: a rainforest reforesting project using a variety of native trees, a mixed species plantation, and a monoculture plantation of conifers.
Amazing reefs: how corals 'hear', an interview with Steve Simpson
(07/21/2010) Corals aggregate to form vast reefs, which are home to numerous species and provide vital ecological services such as protecting shorelines. However, coral reefs are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world due to many factors, such as global warming and ocean acidification. Recent research by Simpson and his team of scientists has shown that corals, rather than drifting aimlessly after being released by their parent colonies and by chance landing back on reefs, instead find their way purposefully to reefs by detecting the sound of snapping shrimps and grunting fish on the reef. However, that discovery also means that the larvae might struggle to find reefs when human noises, like drilling or boats, mask the natural ocean sounds.
Australian mammals in steady decline even in large National Park
(07/19/2010) Kakadu National Park, one of the Australia's "largest and best-resourced" protected areas, is experiencing a staggering decline in its small mammal population, according to a new study published in Wildlife Research. Spanning nearly 2 million hectares—larger than Fiji—the park lies in tropical northern Australia. 'This decline is catastrophic,' John Woinarski, lead author of the study and expert on Australian mammals, told mongabay.com. 'We know of no comparable case in the world of such rapid and severe decline of a large proportion of native species in a large conservation reserve.'
Australian rainforest plant yields possible cancer killer
(06/14/2010) A drug derived from a plant native to the Australian rainforest may prove to be a new weapon against cancer, according to the AFP. QBiotics Ltd has released a statement announcing that a drug made from the seeds of a rainforest shrub has successfully treated tumors in over 150 animals, and the company is now preparing to test the drug on humans.
Study points to global snake decline
(06/09/2010) A number of reports over the last decade have shown amphibians, lizards, fish, and birds facing steep population declines across species and continents, providing further evidence that the planet is undergoing a mass extinction. Now a new study in Biology Letters adds another group of animals to that list: snakes.
Anglican Church says overpopulation may break eighth commandment
(06/08/2010) In a bold move for a Christian church, Australia's Anglican Church has linked overpopulation to the eighth commandment given to Moses on Mount Sinai: 'Thou shall not steal', according to The Age.
Saltwater crocodiles surf across the ocean
(06/06/2010) Despite being poor swimmers, researchers have discovered that the saltwater crocodile (also known as estuarine) commonly travels long distances over open oceans by riding ocean currents. The discovery, published inJournal of Animal Ecology, solves an unknown mystery of why saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are found across vast distance in the Pacific, yet have not diverged into different species.
International alliance created to help corporations avoid illegal wood
(06/01/2010) Given the complexities of the global wood trade and the difficulty of deciphering a product's source of wood, the World Resources Institute (WRI), the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA-US and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have banded together to create a global initiative, the Forest Legality Alliance, to aid private corporations to reduce the trade in illegal wood. The alliance's formation comes after the US amended the Lacey Act in 2008 to ban the trade of illegal wood products in the US.
World failing on every environmental issue: an op-ed for Earth Day
(04/22/2010) The biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis, the deforestation crisis: we are living in an age when environmental issues have moved from regional problems to global ones. A generation or two before ours and one might speak of saving the beauty of Northern California; conserving a single species—say the white rhino—from extinction; or preserving an ecological region like the Amazon. That was a different age. Today we speak of preserving world biodiversity, of saving the 'lungs of the planet', of mitigating global climate change. No longer are humans over-reaching in just one region, but we are overreaching the whole planet, stretching ecological systems to a breaking point. While we are aware of the issues that threaten the well-being of life on this planet, including our own, how are we progressing on solutions?
Frog in Australia goes from 'extinct' to very, very endangered
(03/08/2010) Facing habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and the devastating chytrid fungus, there has been little positive news about amphibians recently. However, a story out of Australia brings a much needed respite from bad news. In 2008 Luke Pearce, a fisheries conservation officer, stumbled on a frog that had been thought to be extinct for over thirty years. Not recorded since the 1970s, Pearce rediscovered the yellow-spotted bell frog (Litoria castanea) on rural Australian farmland in the Southern Tableland of New South Wales.
Healthy coral reefs produce clouds and precipitation
(03/03/2010) Twenty years of research has led Dr. Graham Jones of Australia's Southern Cross University to discover a startling connection between coral reefs and coastal precipitation. According to Jones, a substance produced by thriving coral reefs seed clouds leading to precipitation in a long-standing natural process that is coming under threat due to climate change.
Australia pledges $30m to reduce deforestation in Sumatra
(03/03/2010) Australia will contribute A$30 million to a project to reduce deforestation in the province of Jambi, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, reports Reuters.
W Australia has hottest and driest summer on record
(03/02/2010) Western Australia endured its hottest summer on record, according to the state weather bureau.
Could toxins from plantation trees be causing cancer cluster, oyster deaths in Tasmania?
(02/22/2010) A local medical doctor, a marine ecologist, and oyster farmers are raising an alarm that a nearby monoculture plantation of Eucalyptus nitens may be poisoning local water reserves, leading to rare cancers and high oyster mortality in Tasmania. However, the toxin is not from pesticides, as originally expected, but appears to originate from the trees themselves.
UN to protect seven migratory sharks, but Australia opts out
(02/17/2010) One hundred and thirteen countries have signed on to an agreement to protect seven migratory sharks currently threatened with extinction byway of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), according to the UN Environment Program (UNEP). The agreement prohibits hunting, fishing, or deliberate killing of the great white shark, basking shark, whale shark, porbeagle shark, spiny dogfish, as well as the shortfin and longfin mako sharks. However, Australia has declared it will ignore certain protections.
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